New York – Craig F. Starr Gallery is pleased to present Eleanore Mikus: Tablets and Related Works, 1960-69, which will be on view February 3 through March 25, 2017. This is the first exhibition in almost fifteen years devoted to Eleanore Mikus’s (b. 1927) seminal collages, reliefs, paperfolds, and paintings. A selection of these early important works was most recently included in her critically acclaimed 2006 retrospective curated by Luis Camnitzer at The Drawing Center, New York.
Mikus arrived in New York in 1960, and in 1961 she painted her first Tablet – the name she gave to a series of works that are hybrids of paintings and low relief. The same year, two of the Tablets were included in a group exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ad Reinhardt saw Mikus’s work in that show and was so impressed he insisted on meeting her; the two became friends. Mikus showed with The Pace Gallery, first in Boston in 1963, and then in New York in 1964 and 1965.
Her works continued to be incredibly well received and were acquired by major collections and institutions. Museum of Modern Art curator, Dorothy Miller, purchased a Tablet for the museum in 1964 and included it the exhibition Recent Acquisitions: Painting and Sculpture in 1966. Now, fifty years later, the Starr exhibition celebrates this beautiful body of work that captured the attention of the 1960s New York art world.
The show will focus on Mikus’s Tablets. Tablet 1 (1961) – the first in the series and a highlight of the show – will be among those on view. Cardboard and index card reliefs, which the artist thought of as both studies for the Tablets and as independent works, will also be on view, as well as several of her paperfolds, which she began in 1963. At first glance, these works with their modular grids and monochromatic aesthetic seem to conform to the Minimalist trends of the time; they significantly diverge from them, however, because of their emphasis on natural materials and their handmade, somewhat happenstance qualities. They connect with life’s real dynamics, with continuous change, and with the cycles of nature. Greatly influenced by Zen aesthetics popular during this time, Mikus managed to attain beauty paradoxically through a sense of both erosion and endurance.
As Robert Hobbs writes in the catalogue essay, “Mikus’s Tablets, with their numinous surfaces of gently uneven planes beneath numerous coats of white paint (and at times, wax), embody the passage of time. Yet these softly nuanced components also reinforce the here and now, as well as incorporate an understated fragility, made more so by flickering surfaces created through these works’ ability to reflect light and generate shadows, and, as tablets, they also summon up the image of perseverance against time’s inevitable onslaughts.” In this newly commissioned text, Hobbs examines Mikus’s work from the 1960s and its relation to the Japanese Zen aesthetic of wabi-sabi. Hobbs previously co-authored the monograph, Eleanore Mikus: Shadows of the Real, with Judith Bernstock, published in 1991 by Groton House and the University of Washington Press with the additional support of Cornell University.